tea time: chat with the farmwives

Cher asks, “How do you make such good yogurt?”

Robin replies, “for years i bought live culture organic yogurt from the coop added about 6 TBS per gallon of milk and hoped for the best (step by step: i heated milk to about 180 degrees, cooled milk back down to 115, added yogurt, and let rest in a warm spot for 8 hours or so). the results were so inconsistent, batch by batch variation and all would be lost if in any given month the yogurt didn’t arrive (or i forgot to order it!). a few years ago i switched. now, i buy freeze dried yogurt culture from the dairy connection. 1/4 tsp can culture up to 4 gallons of milk, the end results are consistent, delicious and easy. i always have the culture on hand, stored in my freezer it can last up to a year. it is cheaper, easier, better, what more can you ask for? so dear friends,fresh batch of yogurt, 2013 maple syrupIMG_4047

come over for breakfast won’t you?

Coree adds to this: “I haven’t taken the time or made the investment in powdered culture (though I’ve meant to ever since Robin told me about it), I have improved the results of my homemade yogurt GRRReatly by simply boiling water in my milk-warming pan, then pouring it into my clean yogurt jars before I start the rest of the process.  I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t take much “off-type” bacteria to interfere with the process, and using the same jars over and over again, or using them still damp from washing with water that isn’t boiling hot (like usual) can guarantee a build up of some kind of undesirable life forms.  The boiling water cleans the pan the milk will be warmed in, then the jars before they set with the culturing milk.  That’s my two cents.

Now, bring on the maple syrup, or strawberry jam…?”

successful grafting

I am one of these babies

I am one of these babies

I was not born here, but I was raised here. My parents transplanted, or maybe the better word is ‘grafted’ on here in the mid 70’s. I was about two months old when they parked the Airstream trailer back in the hollow and set up camp. I grew up in the country, going to the public schools in these small rural towns. My folks instilled in me a deep love of this place.  In this place, around here, we have lots of natural beauty and lots of really nice people who all know each other for five generations back. I never lacked friends, but I never completely fit in either. Like a well-grafted fruit tree, I thrived, but was made to bear different fruit than my rootstock. Upon entering adolescence I began to get the feeling that I was going to make my own kinships, but maybe somewhere else. So I went away.

That’s when they began to arrive, and when I stopped in to home between longer excursions, I met my friends, right here where I had always wanted them.
I can’t begin to talk about knowing Cher without talking about Eric. I was 19 when we met. I knew he was a true friend without a doubt, from the beginning. I was away at college, and traveling, never staying anywhere for very long, but not having very much direction to my movements. Eric and I kept in touch. And he stayed right here. I could tell it wasn’t easy for him. His commitment to this place was so steadfast and real; he could not deny that calling, so even when it wasn’t comfortable, he stayed.
He was right. Cher came to him. I heard about her before I met her. He was so confident in the goodness of their connection,and for good reason. Cher and Eric fit together like roots and soil. She’s grounded, but not dull; smart but not cynical; strong, not hard; sweet without being silly. Eric met and married his best friend, and brought me one of mine at the same time.
Eric and Cher’s wedding happened right after I got back from a longish trip to Indonesia. I met Robin (and Paul and Sasha, toddling at the time) nearly a year later, just before leaving for Tibet.
We were all tooling around Long Hungry Creek Farm. I had heard that my first farmer friends and mentors had new interns the year after I had worked with them. They had since moved on and were back for a visit. We had heard of each other, and we expressed our mutual curiosity and enjoyed a walk and chat. They had been to Indonesia, too (bagaimana!) and done quite a lot of traveling. Again, I sensed the kinship.
They were further along the path than I, by a long shot. They had a farm AND a baby. I was so intrigued. What did it look like to live this life that I’d always aimed toward? They were wonderfully tolerant of my youth and singularity. I visited whenever I found myself local, practiced yoga in their barn loft, and wandered around the gardens with Sasha.
One day the little boy and I went to pick strawberries. The patch was weedy and I was trying to clean it a little, but found myself involved in a continuous stream of distractions and conversation with Sasha. Finally, we picked a few flowers and I sent him back to the kitchen to take them to Robin. I can still see his little blond head bobbing through the flowers in the sun. Later that day, I asked Robin how they got anything done with a baby in tow. She said “You just have to think that raising them is just as important as anything else that happens here.” Something inside of me clicked. A voice in my soul said “Pay attention. This is the truth.”
It took me a few more years to find my husband and make our own place, but I’m here, with these friends, nice long kinships by now, all these beautiful children we tend, and the land and lives that we love. Through babies, long hot work days and cold winter nights, with empathy and sympathy for one another’s course through life and time, our friendships continue to knit together, looser and tighter at times, but connected always in the love of the land and the life that we make on it. We are grafting a strong orchard of beautiful fruit as we experiment with our culture and our dreams and our lives. We hope you will enjoy the harvest, too.growing children

love letter

IMG_1413For my inaugural post here, I felt driven to address the awesome ladies that I will be sharing this space with. Thank all of you dear friends and readers so much for all of the encouragement and support you have given as we launch this new project. There’s so much more to come…

Dear Coree and Robin,

The change of the seasons is upon us. The wind is blowing voraciously outside, rain on its way. I know at the end of the day today, we each pulled in a line full of dry clothes, hurrying to get it done before the evening witching hours distracted our mama-selves causing us to forget that laundry altogether. I’ve been watching, and listening, to the trill of the sandhill cranes moving northward. I know you hear it, too. The wood cocks can be heard in the evening air performing their mating ritual, securing a bride. The maple sap has run, and stopped, and will run a bit more before budding time. We dance with these things. Daily. We feed our families the food we have worked so hard for… cooking at least three meals a day for our hungry little troops. The rhythm of our days and weeks and months are so similar, yet we all share it with a slightly different twist. I love that. IMG_1224I feel so honored to get to share my thoughts, and whims, and struggles, and laughter, and tears with two such lovely, strong women. I am terribly excited about this new season we are entering into, together… the season of the radical farmwives! May this journey nourish our souls and make our bonds as friends that much stronger. May this exchange also allow others, farmwives or not, to share what we are doing, and hopefully find a little bit of inspiration here. We have planted a new seed, ladies. Now let’s water it and watch it grow!

I love you both,

CherIMG_1410